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True Romance!

25 Jul

Introducing John Barrington’s Deliciously Fragrant Heirloom Carnations

dianthus_queen_of_hearts

Glowing in the garden, Dianthus ‘Queen of Hearts.‘  Thank you John Barrington!

If any of you follow my ramblings over the past several decades, you know that I am enamored with the genus Dianthus. Now, not those silly, boinky, dwarfed, sadly scentless and die-really-fast ones you get at the box stores and garden centers, but the cottagey-perennial, divinely fragrant and long lived prolific bloomers of my gardens here at the nursery.

Interestingly, our most popular Dianthus has been the strange and fantastical (but not intensely scented) Carnation type Dianthus ‘Chomely Farran.’ As far as I can tell, it is the last remaining (at least in the US) of a huge group of Carnation types called “Bizarres” that were very popular prior to 1830. Looking for any information on “Bizarres” and another category of lost Dianthus called “Flakes’ I came across a reprint of Thomas Hogg’s 1839 book, “A Practical Treatise,” which lists well over 200 named varieties of ‘Bizarres.’ How exciting!

Dianthus 'Chomley Farran' in hand

Nearly perfect and oh-so-psychedelic ‘Chomley Farran’, why can’t you be more fragrant?

Wondering if there could be any of these heirloom Dianthus still alive somewhere in the world led me to Google every named variety listed in Hogg’s book until ding-ding! A hit!
Vintage plane blue sky

Off I flew to the UK – to the house and nursery of Carnation fanatic and devotee John Barrington in Somerset, England. Tucked away on a 200-acre farm in the middle of what seems like nowhere, John is passionate about recapturing the long stemmed, ever-blooming Carnations of old and has devoted his life to bringing romance – and most importantly FRAGRANCE – back to this heirloom favorite.

Walking through John’s greenhouses, packed with hundreds of varieties in tidy rows, was like waking up on Christmas morning! So welcoming and kind-hearted, John was delighted to share the delicious scents we had only dreamed of! It was like I had found the Holy Grail of Carnation-kind!

John_Barrington's_ greenhouse

Row upon row of heirloom Carnation inspiration!!

As I thrilled to each new scent, he excitedly bounced around taking cuttings of all the varieties I liked the best. To meet someone so obsessed with one particular plant – and so dedicated to saving and recapturing an important piece of horticultural history – made this my favorite plant hunting experience ever! If you ever find yourself in the UK, you must visit him. I guarantee you will love him as much as I did!
Annie_Holding_Carnations1

Now, after two years of increasing our stock, we are thrilled to be able to finally share these enchanting heirlooms with you! Almost non-stop blooming (year-round here in our mild climate), strongly perennial and vigorous – we’re offering the prettiest and most fragrant of the bunch. Among them is a legendary “Flake.”

dianthus JB #12 'Cheshire Cat'

The purrrr-fect “Flake”- introducing ‘Cheshire Cat!’

dianthus JB #33 'White Rabbit'

‘White Rabbit’ boasts the most fragrance of all!

dianthus JB #29 'Queen of Hearts'

Off with its head! ‘Queen of Hearts’ makes a fabulous cut flower.

Check out all our Perpetual Carnations HERE!

Our obsession with all things Dianthus runs deep – check out all of the wonderful and heirloom varieties we offer!

Combination Nation!

21 Mar

A garden is more than just the sum of its parts. It’s about getting some of the sum to party together at the same time!

Over the years, we’ve come across some pretty dependable – and dependably pretty – bloom-at-the-same-time plant combinations. And each year, it seems we discover new ones! For us, that’s a huge part of the fun of gardening – and of course, we love to share our tried-and-true, can’t-go-wrong favorites with you!

Our Springtime gardens wouldn’t be the same without our  favorite California wildflower and #1 stunner , Nemophila menziesii “Baby Blue Eyes.” Once you’ve edged your Spring garden in this little slice of sky-blue heaven, you’ll be hooked! Which is fine because it looks great with everything, especially other natives that bloom at the same time. Here it looking perfectly perky with Malcolmia maritima and  fellow natives Platystemon californicusNemophila menziesii ‘Snow White’ and Limnanthes douglasii “Meadow Foam.”

Nemophila menziesii scene

Yup, looks great with the fiery red of Eschscholzia californica ‘Red Chief,’ too!

Nemophila "Baby Blue Eyes" & Cal Poppy 'Red Chief'

“Baby Blue Eyes” looking extra fine with red hot Cal Poppy ‘Red Chief.’

Another knock-out and goof-proof duo we return to again and again is Penstemon heterophyllus ‘Blue Springs’ and Eschscholzia californica ‘Apricot Chiffon.’ You just can’t beat the alchemy between the radiant Poppy and the luminous, almost turquoise Penstemon. Not shy in the bloom department, these two will go to town for months! Deer and drought resistant, they’re fine in low fertility soil and even more bodacious in regular garden soil with some compost!

Cal Poppy 'Apricot Chiffon' & Penstemon heterophyllus

Cal Poppy 'Apricot Chiffon' & Penstemon heterophyllus
Okay, so say pastels aren’t really your thing. We can work with that! One of our favorite combinations pits primary gentian blue Anagallis monellii against the solar flare sunshine of Ursinia anthemoides. Throw in the peachy-amber foliage of Heuchera ‘Marmalade’ and you’ve got a fantasically contrastic combo that does great in low water gardens.

Anagallis monellii & Ursinia anthemoides

From left to right: Heuchera ‘Marmalade’, Anagallis monellii and Ursinia anthemoides. BAM.

Ursinia anethoides & Anagallis monellii

Dreamiest spikes of creamiest apricot-blushed-rose blooms make this properly 3′ tall Snapdragon a perfect companion to so many other Spring (and Summer!) bloomers. Here it is canoodling with the long-blooming frothy lace caps of Orlaya grandiflora “Minoan Lace.”

Antirrhinum 'Chantilly Peach' and Orlaya grandiflora

Antirrhinum 'Chantilly Peach,' Orlaya  grandiflora & Nicotiana 'Lime Green'
If we handed out awards to our favorite bloomers, Nicotiana alata ‘Lime Green’ would probably sweep the floor, winning “Most Congenial,” Most Stylish” AND “Most Versatile.” Easy and exceptionally long blooming, it gets along with EVERYBODY and looks chic and fabulous doing it.  Plant it in containers or in the garden, it’ll thrive in sun (along the coast) or shade, its lime green flowers providing the perfect foil for more vibrant bloomers like Agrostemma githago ‘Milas.’

Nicotiana 'Lime Green' & Agrostemma g. 'Milas'

Agrostemma githago 'Milas'

So there you have it, folks – some simple and stunning combos you can try at home. AND, since so many of these luscious lovelies self-sow, you’ll enjoy future generations of combinations next Spring and beyond!

Which Papaver Are You?

20 Feb

Here at Annie’s , we love our giant Papavers and we grow over 30 different varieties. Call us crazy, but we have a theory that there’s a Papaver for every personality and every garden!

Papaver ‘Drama Queen’

Papaver 'DRAMA QUEEN'

Crazy colorful and wild at heart, Papaver ‘Drama Queen’ isn’t afraid to say: “Don’t mess with me fellas! This isn’t my first time at the rodeo!” Beautiful, brazen and so far over-the-top, the garden falls into silence the minute one of its buds pops open. All of its Poppy friends hide their wire hangers when it comes over.

Papaver ‘Cupcake’

Papaver 'Cupcake'

So sweet and sunny and perfectly princess pink, pretty Papaver ‘Cupcake’ always sees the compost pile as half full. So dang upbeat, it’s infectious – it can even make people who hate pink spontaneously burst out into song.

Papaver ‘Venus’

Papaver 'Venus'

Like a gift from the Poppy gods, ‘Venus’ is a cross between a neo-classical goddess and a cheerleader on steroids. When it lifts its massive salmon-pink pom-poms skyward and shouts: “Give me a P!” the crowd goes wild. 

Papaver ‘Single Black’

Papaver 'Single Black'
Like Stevie Nicks in her witchy phase, Papaver ‘Single Black’ swirls around the garden in a cloak of deepest maroony-black petals. People rely on it to add a touch of danger and intrigue wherever it’s planted and it never disappoints. Naughty and nice planted with frothy white “Venus’ Navelwort” for maximum rock and roll!

Papaver ‘Falling in Love’

Romantic Papaver rhoeas 'Falling in Love'

Walking around with its head in the clouds, every day is Valentine’s Day for ‘Falling in Love’. Soft and bubbly, it loves surprises and rewards admirers with a loveable mix of bicolored pink and white, scarlet-orange, rose, pink or peach blooms. Sure, some of its less showy and more bitter garden rivals call it “Flailing in Love” but it doesn’t care. It knows life is too short to give your heart to just one suitor.

Papaver ‘Queen’s Poppy’

Papaver 'Queen's Poppy'

Do you like to wear capes? Do you keep your family jewels in a tower? Then most certainly ‘Queen’s Poppy’ is for you! Positively regal – and immense! – 5″ cherry pink blooms, conferred with a white Maltese cross at the base rise up and rule the garden in late Spring. Reseeds reliably so that successive generations can ascend the throne.

Check out all of the different varieties we grow! 

Watch a SLIDESHOW of all our favorite Poppies!

Gone! Poof! Another beauty DISAPPEARED!

15 Jun
Antirrhinum Double Azalea Apricot garden

So sad! One of these beauties is going bye-bye.

You know that feeling you get when you go to your regular grocery store to pick up the essential things that you buy RELIGIOUSLY and that thing, that THING you have come to love and trust and expect is just … GONE? Say, a certain kind of tea; the one that lives on aisle 8 on the third tea shelf in the round canister between the one with the green label and that other one in the orange box. Well, it’s not there. You ask a clerk if they’ve seen it and they say, “….oh… I haven’t seen that in a while. Let me check with my manager.” And they walk off, and you wait, and you wait, and then the clerk comes back and tells you the one thing you don’t want to hear, hoping you won’t be upset: it’s been discontinued. Gone! Not gone for today, but gone from the world. Poof! Disappeared.

Sorry folks, but that exact thing just happened to us. And we’re trying to figure out how to break it to you. One of the hazards of working with plants grown from seed is that sometimes a plant goes away and it never comes back. It is a less tragic thing than extinction, but still seriously sad, and we wanted to let you know gently, and then we might need a hug, because this is one of the biggest bummers we’ve ever encountered in terms of being left out in the cold by a seed company. Ready? Brace yourselves: The Double Azalea Snapdragons? Those fruity smelling ones that look like a bizarre confection from candyland? They’re going bye-bye.

antirrhinum_double_azalea_pink_garden1

Inhale deeply. That’s the fragrant tutti-fruity scent of obsolescence. :(

antirrhinum_majus_double_azalea_apricot

BFF’s like Nigella hispanica ‘Curiosity’ are bummed, too.

Believe us, we know. It’s a tragedy. Every day one’s in bloom at the nursery their fan base expands. Their long, tall stems of sunset hued pink and apricot double frilled blooms smell sweetly spicy, make super fabulous bouquets, and grow and rebloom yearlong in milder climes. They’re fancy but still simple to grow and really very successful for even beginning gardeners. They’re easy in pots and in the ground and undemanding. Could someone please tell the powers that be that discontinuing this fine strain is a terrible mistake?

Antirrhinum majus 'Double Azaelea Apricot' with Celosia

But why?! ‘Double Azalea Apricot’ makes friends with everybody! Like Celosia argentea cristata ‘Cramer’s Burgundy’ for example.

Sure, we could still get the mixed color strain, but that’s playing Russian Roulette with your color scheme, and we’ve learned that’s the sort of adventure not everyone wants in their life.

antirrhinum_dbl_pink_cluster

We won’t forget your ruffly charm and upstanding character ‘Double Azalea Pink’. You were always there for us when we needed a dose of over-the-top girliness.

Because these are F1 hybrids, if we collect our own seed the results could vary wildly and land us in a pickle of confused forms. If people are up for it, we just might try it, but more likely we’ll start growing small batches from cuttings, which is a way less convenient and desirable way to propagate this plant. But we do what we must (within reason!) to keep the plants we really love out in the world.

antirrhinum_double_azalea_bokeh

I guess this is adieu ‘Double Azalea Apricot.’ *Sniff* We’ll always have Paris.

Change! It’s hard for everyone, but hey, Flower Floozies, we’ll do our best. Stay tuned, and if you find a bucket of Double Azalea Apricot seeds just sitting around, CALL US!

Claire


Spring Gardens Report Card

7 Jun

So, here’s the update on how my Spring blooming combos worked out this year. A lovely year all in all with a nice early bloom show for our Spring Party in mid-April and a perfect peak show just in time for our Mother’s Day Party.

SMALL Spring Garden U BED  left side full bloom

Papaver commutatum - Nemophila menziesii  & Agrostemma Ocean Pearls for blog

Here is the final result for the always popular mixed planting of Papaver commutatum “ Ladybird Poppy” with California native Nemophila menziesii “Baby Blue Eyes” and tall, white, cottagey classic annual Agrostemma githago ‘Ocean Pearls’ or “White Corncockle”. A fool proof-slam dunk Springtime combination – just imagine these plants repeated in groups over a larger space!

Papaver commutatum , White Cal Poppy & Nemophila 04-12 c GOOD

Here it is a month earlier before the Agrostemma started blooming and when the white California poppies, Eschscholzia californica ‘Alba’, were just coming into flower. Here along the coast in the Bay Area, I plant all these annuals in early February for a maximum bloom-at-the-same-time April – May show. You folks in Southern California would generally plant them in November – December for a late February – March bloom. Basically, they take 2 months from their 4” pot size to burst into all their glory. I plant them pretty darn close together – about 10-12” apart as you can see in my last blog, where I tried to show what they look like just after planting. This helps them fill in fast, look super co-mingly and prevents unattractive bare space (and weeds!).

Big thrill for me! My first-time experiment pairing EASY South African bulb Ixia ‘Buttercup’ and new-to-me Southern California purple California native Phacelia minor was a success! They did bloom at the same time!

Phacelia minor-Ixia Buttercup & Thomas Church

I planted the Phacelia in early March and it worked out just right. Wonderfully rich colored bells were displayed so showily atop quite handsome low foliage. A swell contrast with the Ixia, which has been in the ground for 2 years. And notice the rather perfect purple and yellow bicolored Lupinus regalis ‘Thomas Church’ in the background, making a picture perfect harmonious vertical accent. The Lupine is a perennial and so is the Ixia, which spreads politely in your garden to make a patch of bright primrose prettiness each year. The Phacelia is a bee-magnet extraordinaire and will self-sow for a repeat performance each Spring.

Lupinus Thomas Church & Ixia Buttercup bb ADJ

As I mentioned in my March post, I try to make the front bed as you enter the nursery as romantic as I can. Not everything worked out as I had imagined it (a really common occurrence!).
U BED Spring Garden Elayne ADJ & CROP

This spot is under partial shadow of a tree and I always forget that sun loving plants take longer to bloom with less sun, so my white poppies, Papaver ‘Bridal Silk’, bloomed late and you can only see one bloom on the right side of this photo. Luckily, the white columbine, Aquilegia caerulea ‘Krystal’ took its place. Still pretty, though, don’t you think? Here is a close-up of always beautiful, long lived and long blooming Dianthus ‘Pinkerton’ and “Baby Blue Eyes”.

Dianthus Pinkerton & Nemophila

Lastly, this was the first year I’ve tried this lovely new apricot colored Calendula ‘Bronzed Beauty’ in our gardens.

Calendula  Bronze Beauty  side  NICE

Calendula Bronze Beauty close PERFECT

The gentian Ajuga genevensis I had planned for the front of the bed bloomed late this year, so I added in some quick flowering Viola ‘Bolwes Black’ along with the blue Delphinium bellamosum, peach foliaged Heuchera ‘Marmalade’ and Bellis perennis “English Daisy”. And here’s how it turned out for these photos – I think pretty nice!

Calendula  Bronzed Beaury Viola Bowles Black 7 Heuchera Marmalade nn

Calendula Bronze Beauty  SIDE GOOD  ADJ & CROP

That’s one thing I have learned from my years of gardening. You can never quite count on perennials, like the Ajuga, to behave the same way each year or to bloom at the exact same time – that’s one important reason to accessorize and fill in with annuals. You pretty much know what you’re gonna get and that it’s gonna look great. Besides, they self-sow for free plants every new season.

I hope my experiments lend some inspiration. Do stay tuned, as we filmed some nice videos of our Spring gardens this year, featuring more of my favorite “bloom-at-the-same-time combos” in all their fabulous glory! And hey, Happy Gardening everybody!

What I’m Doing in the Garden

29 Mar

People are always asking me when they come in the nursery what I’m doing in the garden right now. They want just a few simple new plant combinations that they can try at home.

Here at the nursery, the goal for me is to get everything to be in full bloom for our SPRING PARTY on April 14 & 15. Each year, I try to do something new so that when people come in, it’s fresh and exciting. It’s thrilling and creative for me and folks are always happy and inspired to see something new. Plus, it’s fun!

This is the first demonstration bed you see when you enter the nursery. I want it to feel romantic, Springy and welcoming as visitors walk through the front gates.

center bed newly planted

Filling in the space around established Cephalaria gigantea, “Giant Scabious” – which won’t bloom until Summer – are exuberant Spring favorites Nemophila menziesii “Baby Blue Eyes”, Papaver commutatum ‘Ladybird’ and Agrostemma githago ‘Ocean Pearls’. FYI: the white speckles covering the soil is Sluggo, my favorite non-toxic snail bait. NOTICE THE AMOUNT of Sluggo I’m using here. It’s been raining for the last three weeks straight – and that means its super snacky time for resident slugs and snails. I’ll re-apply it every five days while it’s raining to make sure my baby plants are safe.

Click to see a larger view of this garden!

Here’s an example of this combo with Orlaya grandiflora stepping in for Agrostemma ‘Ocean Pearls’. Pretty!

Super popular in the garden last year was Ixia ‘Buttercup‘. This year I’m trying it with purple flowered California native Phacelia minor in hopes that the pairing of bright purple and yellow will look exciting together. Will they bloom at the same time? Let’s see what happens! (In case you’re wondering about the orange stuff on the soil surface, I’ve added a light layer of lava rock. Because we top-dress with compost several times during the year, we add the lava rock once a year to maintain optimum drainage).

Click to see a larger view of this garden!

Ixia hybrid 'Buttercup' close-up

Ixia, meet Phacelia.

Phacelia minor

Phacelia, meet Ixia.


It’s a month before the Spring Party and here I am adding in the quickest to grow and bloom annual – Malcolmia maritima. I looove Malcolmia with “Baby Blue Eyes” and just about any Dianthus. Last month, I planted the Delphinium and Papaver. The Dianthus are from last year – they remain my favorite long-lived, long blooming, old-fashioned, fragrant, perennial stand-bys for the edge of the garden.

Click to see a larger view of this garden!

Here’s a peek at at how sweet and wonderfully SPRINGY this combo looks.

Last year I was enamored with this new two-toned peachy-ruby Calendula, ‘Bronzed Beauty.’ So this year, I planted it near the entryway.

Photo courtesy the lovely Floradora Gardens.

Here, I’m just adding bright gentian blue Ajuga genevensis in the foreground and Delphinium ‘Bellamosum’ in the back. Bouncy white English daisies (Bellis perennis) will fill in any emtpy spaces. For foliar interest, there are a few grasses plus harmoniously peachy Heuchera ‘Marmalade’ and ruby-ribbed Rumex sanguineus.

Click to see a larger view of this garden!

So there you go! With just a few well-chosen Spring bloomers, you can make great combinations that will delight your eye and make you and your garden feel so totally successful!

It’s starting to happen!

28 Apr

Looks like the gardens will peak just in time for our Mother’s Day Party on May 7 & 8! Get all the deets HERE!

Everything is blooming about a month late because of the cold and the rain and the hail (and the rain an the hail and the cold). We didn’t know if this year’s gardens would end up a complete disaster after an unusually brutal Winter but once again, Mother Nature is delighting us with her magic.

lupinus_thomas_church_garden

Lupinus 'Thomas Church' and Aquilegia v. 'Blue Barlow' looking spiffy!

The California natives seem to be especially slow, with California poppies yet to bloom and Nemophila menziesii “Baby Blue Eyes” growing in slow motion. But, the Lupines are earlier than ever and thriving!

lupinus_thomas_church_spiking

Omphalodes linifolia provides a delightful white skirt to our boy 'Thomas.'

Layias were one of the CA natives not affected by the rain and it didn’t seem to mind the cold. Some of them did get a little beaten down by the hail, but they’re sure bringing their rays of sunshine to the beds right now.

LAYIA & PHYGELIUS CROP PRETTY ADJ  copy

Layia platyglossa "Tidy Tips" and Penstemon pseudospectabilis with Campanula glomerata.

layia_glandulosa_in_garden

Layia glandulosa makes the perfect partner to Nemophila menziesii "Baby Blue Eyes."

We’re LOVING the true form of Layia glandulosa. Everybody loves blues and whites in the Spring garden, but you need soft yellows to balance it out and bright pinks to make it pop. I’m so excited because this is the perfect soft yellow to go with all of our Spring bloomers!

Gladiolus carneus "Painted Lady" & Glaucium grandiflorum GOOD copy

Gladiolus carneus "Painted Lady" and Glaucium grandiflorum make odd bedfellows.

Every year is different and full of surprises. I’ve never seen these two plants bloom at the same time before, hence the unusual color combo! That’s Gladiolus carneus, a South African bulb, returning for another year and Glaucium grandiflorum (orange), blooming much earlier than it usually does for us. Both require no Summer water.

Just coming into bloom is Delphinium belladonna ‘Cliveden Beauty’, Sidalcea hendersonii and ultra-blue CA native Phacelia viscida. The Sidalcea is one of my favorite perennials, I use it everywhere because it blooms Spring thru Fall and is so very reliable, becoming bigger and bloomier every year.

Sidalcea hendersonii & Phacelia viscida Garden  copy

From left to right: Delphinium belladonna 'Cliveden Beauty,' Sidalcea hendersonii and Phacelia viscida.

Phacelia viscida

Bumblebee magnet Phacelia viscida how we love you!

Believe it or not, there are a whole lot more plants still to bloom in this garden. I think they should hit their peak just in time for our Mother’s Day Party on May 7 and 8. How cool is that? You should definitely come – bring your Mom AND your camera! MORE ABOUT THE PARTY HERE!

spring_garden

Carnival colors: Greek poppies (red), Layia platyglossa (yellow), Cheiranthus allionii (orange), Eschscholzia caespitosa (shortie yellow) and Aquilegia c. "Rocky Mountain Columbine" (light blue in background).

Fine Gardening Here We Come!

19 Feb

Or, OMG! We’re in the March/April issue of Fine Gardening Magazine!

fine_gardening

Even though we now sell just as many perennials as annuals here at “Annie’s,” annuals are where we got our start. Easy-to-grow yet increasingly hard-to-find annuals filled the trays in Annie’s backyard nursery 20 years ago, just as they fill the tables of our 2.5 acre urban growing grounds today. Back then, ladies approached Annie with requests for plants they remembered from their grandmother’s gardens, but could no longer find at their local nurseries. She grew them and they flew out the door! Now, the timeless charm and happy-go-lucky ease of these cottage garden favorites are what keeps people coming back year after year.

"Baby Blue Eyes" ,Dianthus carthusianorum, Eschscholzia ccaespitosa Aquilegia 'Krystal' Lupinus & 'Rodeo Rose'

This garden owes its charm to annuals like wee Eschscholzia caepitosa, Lupinus succulentus 'Rodeo Rose' and Nicotiana alata 'Lime Green.'

So when Fine Gardening asked us if we wanted to write a story about our Top 10 Favorite Annuals, how could we say no? Of course we’re not talking boinky, squatty, run-of-the-mill annuals you can buy in giant stores which shall remain nameless. We mean old-fashioned, hard-working, classic cottage garden annuals that exude charm and pull the garden together. They bring in the bees and hummingbirds and hide the knobby knees of taller perennials, thrilling us with their sparkle and shine. In other words, they’re the annuals we can’t live without!

Our Spring gardens would be incomplete without CA native Nemophila menziesii "Baby Blue Eyes."

Renowned for their profuse bloom, delightful habit and conveniently self-sowing ways, these original varieties are almost impossible to find in many nurseries nowadays. You’ll most likely have to start them from seed unless you order them through our mailorder department or can find small plants offered at local farmer’s markets or plant sales.

It's Polygonum mania!

Thomas Jefferson grew Polygonum orientale at Monticello and it was first grown in the US in the 1700s.

Of course, annuals are also a little misunderstood. Some people want to know why they should bother planting something “that’s just going to die.” Welllll, we have lots of opinions about that! The annuals we’re talking about don’t just disappear after one season. They’re tried and true, seeding themselves here and there, so you’ll have plenty of FREE plants next year. After hundreds of years of being passed-along and shared, they’re classic cottage annuals for a reason!

Viscaria oculata "German Catchfly"

"German Catchfly" blooms like crazy and is one of the most cheerful sights in the Summer garden.

Gah! Spring!!

Lime-a-licious Nicotiana alata 'Lime Green' combines beautifully with just about anything.

While a massive amount of trendy plants and the latest hybrids come and go each year, old-fashioned favorites like “Love–in–a–Mist,” “Bachelor’s Buttons” and “Kiss–Me–Over–the–Garden–Gate” soldier on in cottage plantings across the globe, appreciated for their resiliency and treasured for the ethereal charm they bring to our gardens. We’re so happy we have a chance to share them with you. Pick up a copy of the March/April issue of Fine Gardening Magazine to get the whole scoop!

September in Our Gardens

24 Sep
Fall Gardens

Well, here’s my first go at a blog!

I will try not to write too much as I am pretty chatty when it comes to gardens, but hey, isn’t this pretty! As you can see, I have packed in a bunch of plants and I think gardens look good that way. I love cottage gardens and I love them full of life. This shot is taken of one of the widest beds at our nursery – it’s maybe 8’ deep. To pull off a showy Fall garden like this, you have to plant quite a bit ahead of time, well except for the annuals like that gorgeous rosey-violet “Corncockle” – Agrostemma githago ‘Milas.’ Here’s a close up:
Agrostemma githago 'Milas'
I planted that about 6 weeks ago in early August. I was frantically planting late as the weather was so cool this Summer and my Spring plantings didn’t fade till mid Summer. Then we were hit with several days above 100°F and I think I lost one of the “Corncockles.” There a few more squished in there somewhere that should bloom in time for our Fall Party in early October – so all is well. To the left of the “Corncockle” is a ‘Golden Celebration’ Rose and Aster ‘Skyscraper.’

'Golden Celebration' Rose & Aster 'Skyscraper'


I’m very happy with ‘Golden Celebration.’ She blooms Spring thru Fall with no mildew or disease here in fog-landia. And she’s a nice size 4’-5’ tall, much more manageable than ‘Graham Thomas.’ I bought her at Berkeley Hort nursery 2 years ago and she has definitely passed the test and is very popular with our staff. And I think I have found her a fine partner with this Aster. It’s an excellent one with large blooms for 2-3 months or more (with dead-heading) and a good color, not too pale as others can be. It’s a good strong perennial, coming back bigger and bushier each year. Normally, ‘Skyscraper’ grows to 4’ or 5’ tall, but as I got it in late (August), it’s blooming here at only about 3’ (I think I pinched it, too, to help it bush out faster).

And there’s another annual – bushy ‘Italian White’ Sunflower just starting to bloom behind ‘Golden Celebration.’ I love how we can plant Sunflowers so late along the CA coast and have them in bloom for September and October. They just bring so much fun to a garden, don’t you think?

Behind the Sunflowers are red Dahlia coccineas coming on. Now that the huge Spring-blooming New Zealand Delphiniums have been cut back, there is space for them to grow.

Dahlia cocinnia
They give the garden its “spark,” along with the red ‘Altissimo’ Rose against the sky in the background. A lot of times a garden needs a “pop” of red or orange amongst all those soothing colors to make it come alive. Those pink fluffs in the background is the totally awesome ‘Grandmother’s Hat’ Rose. If you like Roses you must grow ‘Grandmother’s Hat!’

 

Rosa 'Grandmother's Hat' in full bloom 

Rosa 'Grandmother's Hat'
Another ever-blooming Rose with gorgeous girlified old-fashioned flowers and a absolutely heavenly scent. What’s more, it’s completely disease resistant in our gardens. You just can’t go wrong with her. In fact, some mean person once jumped over our fence and dug her right out of the ground the night before Mother’s Day – I’m pretty sure to sell the cut flowers – and I cried and cried. But she came back from a piece of the root left in the soil just as fabulous as before. That’s a tough girl! Yay!

Behind ‘Grandmother’s Hat’ is a super cool, tall background perennial that we don’t offer at the nursery anymore since no one ever bought it. It’s old-fashioned “Joe-Pye-Weed” or Eupatorium purpureum.

You’ve probably heard of it, but when was the last time you’ve seen it around? Maybe you East Coast folks can chime in, but I rarely see it out here in California. It is one valiant, long-lived perennial and I don’t think you could possibly kill it except maybe to douse it with poison or never give it any water. It’s fairly drought tolerant, heat and deer proof and returns faithfully each Summer – even when you forget all about it (like me) as it’s deciduous. I’m sure I’ve chopped its roots terribly in late Winter when I turn over the soil during clean up chores but it never seems to resent it. It’s just happy no matter what! It’ll grow 5’-8’ tall depending on crowding and makes a makes a loveable vertical background much adored by butterflies. The 6” flower clusters are sweetly scented of vanilla, too! You can find seed for it online -one company I like a lot is Easyliving Native Perennial Wildflowers.

In the background towards the right you can sorta see what looks like light yellow pom-poms. That’s one of my all time favorite (and cottagey) perennials Scabiosa ochroleuca. It’s major bloom for the buck, blooming Spring thru Fall pretty much non-stop (but of course you should deadhead it).
Scabiosa ochroleuca

Scabiosa ochroleuca closer upper
From the Mediterranean, it’s drought and deer resistant and just loves to grow on the edge of the bed where its roots appreciate the extra drainage. Its soft yellow color goes so well with blues and pinks and its stems bounce around in the breeze. If you grow it in your garden make sure you cut it back to the base in Winter so it looks fresh and clean when it bushes back out in Spring.

Those vertical white spikey things see you poking up here and there are another favorite perennial of mine – Verbascum chiaxii ‘Album.’
Verbascum chiaxii 'Album' in the garden

Pretty Verbascum chiaxii 'Album'
Actually, I didn’t plant them. They are all self sown volunteers – and, oh – I do love my volunteers! Really, no cottage garden should ever be without this Verbascum (common name: Mullein). Tough and simple, they are truly plant and forget. All I ever do is cut the spent flower spikes to the base and within a month, there’s another one springing up. Not fussy about soil, they’re adaptable to sun or bright shade, are drought and deer resistant and they self-sow so you’ll never have to buy a second one. You just get to enjoy the cool and smart places they appear in your garden, like that non-blooming one growing out of the rocks (yep, they’re that tough) right up front.

Speaking of volunteers, that’s an Agastache with the apricot flowers also growing out of the rocks up front. I think it’s ‘Apricot Sprite’ or probably ‘Coronado’ (which I like better).

The emerald green blobs to the right of the Agrostemma are very late blooming Aster oblongifolius. So late, they aren’t blooming yet. I really planted them too late. Usually, they start blooming in August and go thru September or October but here they probably won’t start blooming till October, when a cloud of lavender blooms will smother the foliage. Nice and dense of form, I thought they remained rather short but recently saw some extremely robust ones in a Santa Cruz garden that were 3’ tall. If you’ve got crummy, dry or clay soil, this native of the Midwestern prairies is so sturdy, it will thrive in it. And don’t worry when it goes deciduous in Winter.
Aster oblongifolius
I also have some Dianthus plumarius up front (with the bluish grassy foliage). They would be so pretty and blooming right now except that we’ve hacked at them severely to take cuttings so we can offer them as named varieties next year. We normally grow these “Old Fashioned Pinks” from seed and their colors are variable – but these particular seedlings were so lovely, we wanted to preserve them for other gardeners. We can only do that by taking cuttings. Here’s what they would look like if we hadn’t mauled them.
More Dianthus love

Our new Dianthus
I can certainly go on and on about these old school Dianthuses – but I will save that for another rant. Wait, here’s a quick peek at how they looked in the same garden in July.
Rose & Dianthus bed
In the first photo above, you can see Columbine (below the Agrostemma) waiting for Spring to bloom again. It’s Aquilegia ‘Blue Barlow,’ which looks contrastingly fab against the ‘Golden Celebration’ Rose. It’s just a little reminder to plant your Columbines in Fall if you want them to get big, bushy and truly bloomiferous come Spring. Remember, you want to plant your perennials ahead of the season that they are supposed to bloom.
Oops, I forgot the dark foliaged mounds. Most of you will know they are Heucheras and I know for sure that the one on the right is ‘Melting Fire’ – my current favorite red one. As much as I love masses of flowers in my gardens, I’ve come to really appreciate pretty leaves, foliar contrast and as they say “a place for the eye to rest.” Heucheras fill the bill are easy and long lived and then, well, they look extra lovely when they go into bloom in Spring!

~Annie

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